A majority of United States citizens reside in states that allow voters to directly decide questions of public policy through an initiative or referendum process. Although originally instituted as a check on elitist legislatures, the initiative process has generated its own set of electoral problems. Voters may find themselves under informed or confused about complex public policy issues, while interest groups attempt to manipulate the public with misinformation campaigns. In an examination of research findings from a 2006 statewide poll of likely voters in Washington, this article explores public perceptions, misperceptions and choices in initiative and referendum elections. The authors also discuss a proposal to reform direct democratic elections: the Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR), which would create a citizen panel to deliberate on proposed initiatives and give voters recommendations on the initiatives. The CIR could help make initiative elections more thoughtful and deliberative, and lead to the enactment of better public policy in states practicing direct democracy.

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